Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/The global decline of insect pollinators implications on food security and the importance of creating food sovereign communities through sustainable agricultural landscapes

From UBC Wiki
California Locator Map with US

The global decline of insect pollinators, implications for food security

Wild Californian bee foraging for nectar

Insect populations are declining at an alarming rate all over the world. From an ecological perspective this poses many concerns. For example, insects play a vital role in in food webs and maintain ecosystem functioning. Their loss will contribute to declines in biodiversity. Most of the agricultural food crops grown in the world are pollinated by insects. Therefore, insect declines may have devastating impacts on the ability of most people to access healthy food. This Wikipedia page explores the possible reasons driving these declines and offers solutions. It argues for the development of sustainable agriculture to restore insect habitats on farms in California. For these goals to be achieved a community based land management program must be established. As bees contribute more to pollination services than any other insect, they are the focus of this study. However, other insect pollinators are also considered.

Scope of the problem

Brimstone butterfly pollinating lavender

The world’s population of insect species is in drastic decline. A 2017 study from Germany assessed insect populations over a 27-year period. They found a 76 per cent decline in the total number of flying insect species[1]. This global trend is alarming. Insects are an important component of ecosystems and are crucial for the maintenance of ecological processes. For example, Insects contribute to nutrient cycle processes due to their detritivore actions. They are also key to food webs, as direct sources of nutrition for many birds, mammals, and amphibians. [1] Scientists believe this decline could provoke a cascade of ecological consequences across the globe. [1] Such loss may cause ecosystems to unravel and lead to biodiversity decline[2]

A major concern of this decline is the loss of pollination services provided by insects. A report from the United Nations warned that 40% of the earth’s invertebrate pollinators face extinction [2]. There is a correlation between insect pollinator biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and the reproduction of wild plants [3]. It is estimated that 80% of the world’s wild flowers are pollinated by insects[4]. Without insect pollination a significant amount of soil-enriching and soil-holding plants would disappear[5]. For example, many shrub and tree forest species depend on insects for their reproduction. Without these species many wild animals may not be able to forage for food and the entire forest ecosystem could be threatened. If soil-holding plants disappear, other ecosystem services may be impacted, such as erosion control. A reduction in pollination services may also cause wild flowers across the landscape to drastically decline [5]. This ripple effect caused by the disappearance of insect pollinators has been described as a potential “ecological Armageddon”.[6]


a. Food security

Perhaps the most alarming concern consequent on the decline of insect pollinators is the impact on global food security. Food insecurity can arise when people's ability to obtain healthy food is restricted[7]. Seventy-five per cent of agricultural food crops grown in the world are pollinated by insects [7]. Due to significant insect population declines, humans could face a “pollination crisis” in their food supply as crop yields fall because of inadequate pollination[8].

By weight, wind pollinated crops constitute most of the food humans eat. This category includes rice, wheat, and other grasses. However, insect pollinated crop species make up most of the vitamin rich, nutrient dense foods [4]. These foods provide key sources of minerals in the human diet. Such crops include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds [3]. The loss of these foods world have devastating consequences on the ability of humanity to defend itself against malnutrition. The problem is compounded by the increased dependence of agricultural production on insect pollination. The rate of crop production reliant on insect pollination, particularly managed honey bees, has increased by 300 per cent in the last 50 years. [3]

The global community is already grappling with a food security crisis. 800 million people suffer from malnutrition, and 1 in 7 people go to bed hungry each day[9]. Food insecurity disproportionately affects poor people. However, malnutrition is experienced in both poor and rich countries [7]. In rich countries, food insecurity displays itself in diets full of calories but low in nutrients. Therefore, there is a clear link between poverty, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.[7] As pollinators decline, the world’s poorest people will be inequitably hit the hardest by resulting food insecurities.

Over the next century agriculture will be faced with immense challenges. Human population is expected to increase by 2 billion over the next 25 years.[10] Therefore, there is recognition that more food will have to be produced to feed this growing population. However, this poses many environmental concerns. Agricultural intensification has already contributed to environmental degradation, deforestation, and pollution.[10] Increasing human population will compound problems of a food system already in crisis.

Additionally, it is believed the global demand for food has increased faster than human population increase. It is estimated a 100-110% increase in food production will be necessary to meet demand by 2050. [10] If humans attempt to double the food supply by 2050, as insect populations decline, how will these crops be pollinated? Society must ensure global food security while maintaining biodiversity and ecological functioning in the face of a changing climate [8]. This vision of sustainability is not possible under the industrial agriculture system. Failure in food production could lead to severe famine and civil unrest [11].

In the 1960s the global food production system underwent a major transformational shift. The process was initiated by concern for the growing population and global food shortages. This led to an investment in agricultural research and crop genetics designed to effectively increase agricultural production.[11] This period is known as the “Green Revolution”[11]. The technology from this model involves high yielding cereal crops designed to grow well when treated with heavy doses of fertilizers and chemicals[12]. The resulting 'Green Revolution' practices have been globally adopted and constitute the basis for most agricultural systems today.[12]This system has led to the reduction of total crop diversity grown globally, and a decrease in the genetic diversity of edible seed species. Consequently, global food consumption patterns are shifting toward homogenization at the expense of regionally and culturally important crops. A more uniform global diet will further exacerbate the food security crisis by limiting the availability of nutrient rich foods[11].

A map showing the distribution of CCD cases in USA between 2007-2008 along with honey amount of honey produced

This system of agriculture modeled after the Green Revolution does not support native pollinator populations due to a variety of reasons which are explored below. Therefore, most industrial agricultural systems are dependent on imported, managed honey bees for their pollination services.[8] This dependence upon one pollinator species is problematic, and in combination with unsustainable farming practices, has led to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is the mysterious syndrome where honey bees disappear from their hives. [8] CCD has been particularly devastating in California.

Of all the insect pollinators in California managed and wild bees contribute to pollination services the most. There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world.[8] 1,600 species of wild bees are native to California[13].

b. Economic

Pollination services from insects are estimated to be worth between US$ 235-577 billion dollars annually.[2]Therefore the loss of these services could have devastating economic repercussions in many countries. If pollination services continue to decline farmers may have to rely on hand pollination. This is the case already in some areas in China and Japan. Additionally, Harvard University engineers have designed robotic drone bees in anticipation of the lack of pollination services. However, both solutions are impractical, energy inefficient, and costly.[8] Many crops such as coffee and cocoa are an important source of income in poor countries. The loss of insect pollinators may severely limit the production of these crops and put economic strain on these communities.[3]

c. Cultural

The decline of insect pollinators may cause indigenous communities to lose access to culturally significant plant species. For example, huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum) are culturally and spiritually important for First Nation communities in North America. Huckleberries depend on bumble bees for pollination[14]. If bumble bee populations continue to decline, so too will the huckleberries.

Of course, non-Aboriginal people also have cultural connections to plant species. For example, Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum) is an integral component of the Californian landscape.[15] Its aromatic qualities make it a defining plant and many people in California would miss its loss. Additionally, Yerba Santa is used for its medicinal qualities by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Californian communities.[15] People also value the spicy amber honey that bees make from Yerba Santa flowers.[15]

Wild plants are the foundation of many medicines used by the pharmaceutical industry.[16] The loss of these plants could deprive people of life saving medicines. Indigenous communities in Canada hold medicinal plants as sacred. [14] The loss of these wild plants would have damaging repercussions on their spirituality as well as limit access to medicine. Insect pollinators are culturally significant on a global scale. Pollinators, especially bees, are represented in the art, music, and technology of various cultures. Accounts of bees appear in major religious texts from around the world.[3]


130 million years ago-present: insects have been pollinating flowers. [4]

10,000 years ago-present: insects have been pollinating managed crops.[4]

1900s: Agricultural intensification begins.[5]

1940s: The production of synthetic agro-chemicals begins: The chemical industry and the production of synthetic insecticides rose after WWII. Insects were used to test the toxicity of chemicals intended for chemical warfare. These synthetic chemicals were distinctly different from their insecticide predecessors. Pre-war insecticides were created from naturally occurring products such as dried chrysanthemum flowers, nicotine sulfate from tobacco and rotenone from legume plants. [5]

1940s: The United States government began to eliminate wildflowers and shrubs in roadside verges, with detrimental health effects for insects.[5]

1960s: The Green Revolution begins.[11]

1962: Rachel Carson’s 'Silent Spring' ignited the environmental movement. Carson’s critique of the prolific use of agro-chemicals in the United States led to the ban of DDT.[5]

1990s: The production of neonicotinoids begins. Of all the insecticides applied in the world, neonicotinoids are used the most. These chemicals are particularly damaging to bees. Their effects are explored further in this Wiki.[4]

2010: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 became law: This U.S. Supreme Court decision gave freedom to organizations (corporations) to finance political campaigns, further establishing corporation personhood. This landmark legal decision gave substantial power to special interests, corporations, and lobbyists and to their ability to influence political decisions.[17] Citizens United is significant because it gave more power to the agro-chemical industry.

Reasons for decline; drivers of change

a. Habitat loss

The primary driver of insect decline is habitat loss due to the agricultural development and urbanization. Floral resources are naturally patchy. Bees and other insects have evolved to find these patches of habitat across landscapes. Agricultural and urban intensification could disrupt this process and deprive insects of flowers and nesting materials.[18]

Bees have a wide range of nesting requirements including: [18]

o Substrate diversity: soil, twig, leaf, etc.

o Moisture

o Hardness

o Vegetation cover

Oil Seed Rape near Abberley - - 419531

b. GMO's & mono-cultures: monotonous diets

One of the reasons most agricultural systems do not support pollinators is because many systems are monocultures (i.e. only one crop is grown at a time). Therefore, only one type of flower is present for large stretches of land. Landscapes with acres and acres of one flower type severely limit the nutrients available for pollinators. [8] Pollinators need a diversity of floral resources to be healthy. When the food source of insect pollinators lacks diversity the insect population becomes weaker, sustains a decreased immune system, and becomes more vulnerable to pests and disease. [8] Additionally, the production and promotion of GMO seeds limit crop diversity and flower availability.[19] Goulson contextualized this well by stating “If humans were to eat nothing but sardines one month, chocolate the next and then beets they would probably become sick, bees are the same."[8]

c. Pesticides

The other primary reason conventional agricultural systems do not support insect pollinators is due to the use of pesticides and other synthetic agro-chemicals. Pesticides provide economic benefits by eliminating pests and pathogens. Though they are very effective in the control of pests, they are toxic to most arthropods, including bees and other insect pollinators.[20] Three neonicotinoid insecticides, thiamethoxam, imidacloprid and clothianidin, pose the biggest risk to pollinators [20]. These insecticides are systemic, so they penetrate the plant tissues, protecting every part of the crop. Toxins are present in plants stems, leaves and roots. Additionally, toxins can accumulate in plant nectar and pollen.[21]

Neonicotinoids are “nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists”, meaning they disrupt nerve receptors in the insect brain, causing paralysis and death.[20]The legal limit of pesticide application is not enough to kill honey bees. However, exposure to neonicotinoids can impact bees' neurological functioning. This can result in sub-lethal effects on pollinator performance and behavior. [8] Sub-lethal effect means that though the chemical concentration is not enough to cause direct mortality in bees, the neurological consequences on insects' brains can kill them [8]. There are knowledge gaps in neonicotinoid exposure on solitary bees and other insect pollinators.

Examples of sub-lethal effects on honey and bumble bees include reduced ability of insects to forage for flower nectar, reduced ability of honey bee workers to navigate back to the beehive,[20] reduction in growth rate in bumble bees, and decreased rate of bumble bee reproduction.[21]

Pesticides application 02

Bees are exposed to a cocktail of pesticides throughout their development.[8] Many farmers unknowingly over apply pesticides. For example, Goulson described a typical farmer in East Sussex, England who used 22 different chemicals on one rape seed field including herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers. [4]

Neonicotinoids may persist in the environment long after the pesticide is applied. Only 5% of the chemical's active ingredient is absorbed into the crop, the rest is leached into the soil.[21] Concentrations can persist in the soils for many years. Neonicotinoids are water soluble and can leach into waterways. High concentrations of the pesticide have been reported in soils, waterways, field margins, and flowers within farms. The pollen, nectar, and leaves from wildflowers surrounding farmlands that spray neonicotinoids are additionally contaminated with neurotoxins.[21] This overlap can increase bees' level of toxicity exposure. Studies of rivers, creeks, and drains in California found imidacloprid in 89% of samples, with 19% of samples exceeding the EPA guideline. This type of contamination combined with what is legally sprayed on fields, is enough to directly kill bees and other insects.[8] Furthermore, seeds coated with neonicotinoids can directly kill birds and mammals if the seeds are consumed. Though herbicides keep weeds down they suppress plant diversity and take away flower resources from pollinators.[8]

Eventually, insets and pathogens evolve a resistance and become immune to pesticides. To keep up with evolution, agrochemical companies must produce new chemicals every year. However, this cycle is never-ending. Insects will never stop evolving, and will always find a way to become immune to the pesticides. Therefore, the agrochemical companies will always have to produce new types of toxins every year. Thus, the earth will continue to be exposed to more chemicals. This cycle is alarming from environmental and safety perspectives. New chemicals produced by industry may interact with older pesticides, herbicides or fungicides that have persisted in the soil or water. These interactions can have unknown consequences for human and environmental health. [5]

Though it is efficient to eliminate destructive insects with pesticides, it makes the agricultural system less resilient.[22] The resistance to pesticides is genetic and once insects evolve the trait, it can be passed down through meta-populations[23]. It can then be spread to insect communities where the resistance mutation would not have occurred.[23] If this takes place across a farm landscape, and if insects have acquired the resistance to multiple pesticides, it may be hard to find a viable control option. Consequently, a pesticide failure could occur and result in the collapse of crop production.[5] Additionally, insects may experience a flareback or resurgence after pesticide application in numbers greater than before.[5]The ironic thing is that humans created this situation of explosive pest outbreaks. Before agricultural intensification, insects were successfully managed using holistic methods of natural predation and crop diversity. [5]

d. Soil management

Agricultural practices that destroy soil health may harm insect pollinators. High rates of tillage may disrupt wild bees' ability to find habitats to nest in. The three most abundant bee species in California do not nest in loose plowed soil. Therefore, increased tillage may reduce bee habitats.[18] Unsustainable soil management can cause erosion, further limiting insect habitat. The use of cover crops, fallow fields and compost can mitigate this problem while providing insect nesting sites.[24]

e. Pests and diseases

Insect pollinators, particularly managed honey bees, are vulnerable to pests and diseases. The most common diseases that affect honey bees are deformed wing virus and Nosema ceranae. Both diseases disrupt bees' development and impact their flying ability.[8] Common pests include varroa mite, which are parasitic to honey bee larvae. The mites can be a vector for disease. Though these pathogens have always been present, their spread has increased due to the transportation of honey bees.[8] In the United States, honey bee hives are transported across the country from apiary production sites to farms. Some travel all the way from Florida to California. Hundreds of hives are loaded on semi-trucks for the journey. Most large-scale farms in California are dependent on imported honey bees for their pollination services. Bee diseases are further distributed around the world because of this commercial trade [8]. Nosema is thought to have come from Asia. It is believed to have spread because of the management and transportation of honey bees.[4]

f. Shipping fever

The commercial honey bee trade and the intense transportation regimes imposed on bees put stress on colonies. During transport they endure high vibrations, temperatures, increased levels of CO2, and irregular disturbances. These stresses can activate bacterial and viral infections.[8] The commercial honey bee trade and the intense transportation imposed on bees puts stress on colonies. During transport they endure high vibrations, temperatures, increased levels of CO2, and irregular disturbances. This stress can activate bacterial and viral infections.[8]

g. Climate change

Climate change effects on insect pollinators are not well understood. However, scientists believe flower and bee emergence behavior may change. Since many flowers and their pollinators have evolved synergistically, shifts in flower or bee emergence may have disastrous results. Pollinators may diverge from the plants they pollinate, and those plants may decline. Plant and insect habitat ranges could change, creating a spatial mismatch. Increased flooding could impact habitats. Increased drought could impact flower availability.[8]

h. Feedback loops

As this Wiki page describes, bees experience pressure from many systems. These pressures interact, and their combined effect may be more harmful than one stressor alone. Feedback systems of stressors could emerge.[8] For examples, hungry bees in search of limited food are poisoned by contaminated wild flowers and hedgerows. This makes them more vulnerable to infection by strange foreign diseases. Neonicotinoids sprayed on fields interact with fungicides and become more toxic. This may disrupt their neurological function, directly kill them, or impair their immune system.[8] Though the direct cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is still unknown, scientists believe its cause is rooted in this feedback system of interacting system pressures.[8]

Agricultural subsidies in the United States

Subsidies issued by the government in the United States encourage industrial agricultural intensification. These subsidies are generated from taxpayers. Most of the money goes to large farms that produce monocultures of corn and soybeans. Big farms are powerful and pressure politicians to vote for these subsidies.[25] Subsidies issued by the government in the United States encourage industrial agricultural intensification. These subsidies are generated from taxpayers. Most of the money goes to large farms that produce monocultures of corn and soybeans. Big farms are powerful and pressure politicians to vote for these subsidies.[25]

Affected social actors

• Farmers

• Indigenous communities in California

• Migrant farm workers

• Bee managers: beehive distributors, beekeepers

• As the lack of insect pollinators impacts global food security, the entire human population may be affected

Interested social actors

• Agrochemical industry: Monsanto, Bayer, etc.

• Food industry actors: Food distributors, restaurant owners, etc.

• Biodiversity conservationists

• Agricultural engineers

• NGOs

• California State

• Federal government

• Politicians

• United Nations


• National and State Park employees

Power of social actors: the agrochemical industry

The most difficult aspect of creating a landscape to support insect pollinators will be the large-scale reduction of pesticides. This is because the agrochemical corporations in the United States have significant political power.[26] These corporations do not support sustainable agriculture because it does not require the synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, and genetically modified organisms they produce. The 2010 Citizens United decision grants corporations significant power and influence in Washington, making it more difficult to oppose this industry [26]. In 2017 the conservative Republican Party held power in both the U.S. House and Senate. President Trump’s past decisions favor corporate interests over human welfare and environmental justice. Therefore, no support for sustainable agriculture should be expected from the U.S. federal government. Charles Herbster, one of President Trump's agricultural advisors, has condemned the regulation of agriculture.[27]

In 2016 Bayer announced its intention to buy and merge with Monsanto. Bayer produces neonicotinoids. Monsanto produces genetically modified seeds that are resistant to its pesticides and herbicides.[28] This deal is still waiting approval by U.S. and European antitrust authorities.[27] This merger would create the largest agribusiness in the world. The deal is worth US$ 66 billion dollars and would own 24% of all pesticides and sell 29% of all seeds.[28] This means that one company would hold access and rights to a significant portion of the future food supply. This in and of itself is a threat to food security in the U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has criticized this proposed deal, calling it a “threat to all Americans”.[29]

a. Lobbying efforts

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an NGO comprised of conservative state legislators and members from the private sector. It has been criticized for giving corprations vast influence in political decision making. This NGO “models” bills that become law. ALEC has contributed legislation on behalf of Monsanto and other agrochemical corporations to prevent states from implementing GMO labels .[28] In 2016, Bayer spent US$ 2 million in lobbying efforts and Syngenta (another agrochemical corporation) spent US$ 350,000.[30]

Hope for the future

Wild bee pollinating a bachelor's button flower

Clearly the political power that the agrochemical industry enjoys in the United States, is a primary obstacle for transforming the food system to support insect pollinators. However, there is hope for the future. Luckily insects reproduce quickly and in large numbers.[23] So, it is possible to increase insect abundance and repopulate areas if management changes.[23] In California at least, there is a lot of social capital to support holistic agriculture. Many people in the state are concerned about pollinators and support sustainable agriculture. The power of social activism to transform systems, change social paradigms and create change must not be underestimated.[22]

Tools to help transform the system

a. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a multilateral treaty with the goals of maintaining biodiversity, using resources sustainably, and ensuing equitable distribution of resources. The U.S. Government has signed but not ratified this treaty.[31]

b. The intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body designed to ensure biodiversity, ecosystem services, and sustainable development.[2] IPBES is supported and sponsored by the United Nations. The United States is a member of IPBES. IPBES issued an assessment report on pollinators, pollination and food production. IPBES outlined the importance of insect pollinators of agricultural and ecological systems. It described ways to support insect pollinator diversity, improve conservation and management. The report emphasized the importance of sustainable agriculture.[2] IPBES assessment was adopted by the conference of the parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity and aims to address CBD guidelines and goals. [31]

c. Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)

FPIC in increasingly recognized by the international Court of Justice (ICJ) and other international courts. FPIC states that communities have the right to meaningful participation in environmental decision making in their customary claimed lands and territories. In this case, FPIC could be applied to include the right to access pollination resources. It argues for the ethical foundation of equality and justice. FPIC is referenced in the Convention on Biological Diversity. [32]

In 1962 Rachel Carson stated “We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge." [5]She goes on to state that the Bill of Rights should guarantee that no person should be subjected to poisons distributed by corporations. She believed that if the US Constitution does not explicitly state this right, then the forebearers of the Constitution simply could not imagine a world where this was the reality. [5] Most people in the United States are unaware of the amount and variety of toxins which they are exposed to everyday. Perhaps FPIC can be used to create more transparency and can lead to community supported decision making.

d. Precautionary Principle

The precautionary principle is a guideline in decision making that advises preventive action in the face of uncertainty because the risk of development or action is too great for society to bear. It states that developers must prove their actions are safe before actions take place. Public participation in decision making is encouraged. The principle also supports innovative ideas to determine alternatives for harmful actions.[33] April 2013 the EU passed a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids. UK government was against it, but their concerns were overruled. A two-year ban was established so researchers could investigate and understand the pesticides effects.[20] This decision was based on the Precautionary Principle.[20] Health Canada is proposing a similar ban of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, particularly because of its hazard to aquatic insects and aquatic ecosystems.[34] Perhaps the Precautionary Principle could be used in California to ban neonicotinoids.


To prevent massive extinction of pollinators, a community based land management program to restore insect habitats on farms must be created. This program should incorporate the entire Californian landscape and employ traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable farming practices to support native pollinators. The objective should create a network of bee reserves across cities, towns, roadside verges, and farms to restore patches of habitat connectivity across the landscape.

The challenge will be to encourage and convince farmers to get involved. A quality assurance scheme could be used to achieve these goals. A pollinator friendly certification scheme may be created where farms that employ beneficial practices get a label and can sell their crops at a better price. Of course, the organic label already exists, but this does not guarantee sustainable farming practices that benefit insects.[35]

Enhancing native bee habitat across the landscape may improve working conditions for migrant farm workers. Though this scheme farm workers will endure less exposure to chemicals. This land management program may simultaneously support insects and social justice.

Butterfly pollinating a sunflower

a. Support native pollinators

A key component of this land management plan must be to reduce the dependence of farmers managed non-native honey bees.[36] Heavy dependence on one species of managed honey bees creates points of vulnerability that could potentially create a “pollination crisis”. Farmers should instead focus of diversifying their pollination sources by managing for native wild pollinators. This may necessary anyway because CCD could be irreversible. [8]

b. Food sovereignty

Paradigms of the food production industry must be transformed. One important paradigm shift involves changing the way farmers are perceived. They should be viewed not only as food producers but as land and water stewards. [23] Farmers should not seek to produce the maximum crop yield, but to facilitate the resilient management of food ecosystems.[37]

Members of society should be educated not to view themselves solely as food consumers but to also see themselves as citizens of the food community. [23]These goals can be achieved by emphasizing and supporting food sovereignty and encourage movement away from globalized food systems. Food sovereignty refers to the rights of people to access healthy, culturally appropriate food produced sustainably and the right to define their own food systems. [38]

The idea of food sovereignty also seeks to reconnect people with their food source. [39] This is important to increase social capital so that the entire Californian community becomes invested in the health of the land and its insects. Incorporating traditional knowledge of food systems as well as empowering local and indigenous communities to be food sovereign are important paradigm shifts that must take place to achieve the structural transformation of the food system. [39]

c. Traditional ecological knowledge

Agro-ecological farming practices are based on traditional ecological knowledge from indigenous framers. The intercrop system from Mexico of corn, beans, and squash (known as Milpa), can produce high crop yields without using artificial fertilizers or pesticides. [40] This agricultural system can attract pollinators and reduce the need for chemicals. [40]The biological control of insect pests by encouraging natural enemies is also based on traditional ecological knowledge. These farming methods must be incorporated into the management plan. However, to avoid cultural appropriation of indigenous communities whose ecological knowledge is being used these communities must give consent to the use of their farming practices. To avoid infringing intellectual property rights, acknowledgement of the source of information must also be appropriately given to the community. [14]

UCSC farm rows

d. Beneficial framing practices

Beneficial farming methods that should be adopted into the management plan include:

• Reduced use of pesticides. [24]

• Increased hedgerows around farms, hedgerow restoration.[41]

• Use of fallow fields and create perennial fallow strips on farm edges. [24]

• Use cover crops.[41]

• Increase patches of natural habitat within and nearby farms.[42]

• Grow crops in a matrix of uncultivated land.[41]

Insectenhotel 09

• Crop rotation and diversity.[11]

• Use of bee or insect hotels to provide habitat on farms. [4]

• Reduced tillage may maintain more mycorrhizal fungi in the soil which would maintain healthy soil. This soil structure may also provide insect habitat.[18]

These practices can increase the resilience of farms by diversifying the insect species able to pollinate crops.[37] By encouraging native pollinators farmers in turn will also encourage natural pest predators. Crop diversity and rotation across the landscape will additionally make the system more resilient to pests and diseases.[9] Diversifying plant species and emphasizing culturally important underutilized crops can help preserve the genetic diversity of seeds and lead to healthier diets. [11]

A more resilient food production system would encourage natural ecosystems on farms and allow native predators to control the pests.[22] Systems with multiple pest, predator interactions create self-regulating, functioning food webs. [23] Holistic farming approaches that encourage resilience and sustainability must be key elements of the next agricultural revolution.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hallmann CA, Sorg M, Jongejans E, Siepel H, Hofland N, Schwan H, et al. (2017). More than 75 per cent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12(10)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 IPBES. (2016) The assessment report of pollinators, pollination and food production. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Bonn, Germany
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Clark C. (2016) U.N. report warns 40% of pollinators face extinction. Earth & Environment. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from:
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Goulson D. (2017) What’s up with the bees, and how you can help. Youtube. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from:
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 Carson R. (1962) Silent spring. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company
  6. Carrington D. (2017) Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect number. The Guardian. Retrieved November 8, 2017 from:
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Benton T. (2016) The many faces of food security. International Affairs 92(6): 1505-1515
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 8.19 8.20 8.21 8.22 8.23 Goulson D, Nicholls E, Botias C, Rotheray EL. (2015) Bee declines driven by combined stress from parasites, pesticides, and lack of flowers. Science 347(6229)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dwivedi SL, Lammerts van Bueren ET, Ceccarelli S, Gradno S, Upadhyaya HD, Ortiz R. (2017) Diversifying food systems in the pursuit of sustainable food production and healthy diets. Trends in Plant Science 22(10)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Balmford A, Green RE, Scharlemann JPW. (2005) Sparing land for nature: exploring the potential impact of changes in agricultural yield on the area needed for crop production. Global Change Biology 11(10): 1594-1605
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 Massawe F, Mayes S, Cheng A. (2016) Crop diversity: an unexploited treasure trove for food security. Science & Society 5(21): 365-368
  12. 12.0 12.1 Benton T. (2016) What will we eat in 2030? World Economic Forum. Retrieved November 8, 2017 from:
  13. Slatkin B. (2014). Spreading the buzz about native bees. Bay Nature. Retrieved November 30, 2017 from:
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Turner NJ. (2001) “Doing it right”: Issues and practices of sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products relating to First Peoples in British Columbia. B.C. Journal of Ecosystems and Management 1(1)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2006) California Yerba Santa. Plant guide. Retrieved November 30, 2017 from:
  16. Raskin I, Ribnicky DM, Komarnytsky S, Ilic N, Poulev A, Borisjuk N, Brinker A, Moreno DA, Ripoll C, Yakoby N, O’Neal JM, Cornwell T, Pastor I, Fridlender B. (2002) Plants and human health in the twenty-first century. Trends in Biotechnology 20(12): 522-531
  17. Hansen RL. (2011). “Citizens United” and the illusion of coherence. Michigan Law Review 109(4): 581-623
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Kim J, Williams N, Kremen C. (2006) Effects of cultivation and proximity to natural habitats on ground-nesting native bees in California sunflower fields. BioOne Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kim" defined multiple times with different content
  19. Spring UO. (2011) Genetically modified organisms: a threat for food security and risk for food sovereignty and survival. Coping with global environmental change, disasters, and security. Springer
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 Goulson D. (2013) An overview of the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoid insecticides. Journal of Applied Ecology 50(4)
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Goulson D. (2013) Neonicotinoids and bees: What’s all the buzz? Significance 10(3)
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Meadows D. (2001) Thinking in systems. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 Chapman M, Klassen S, Kreizman M, Semmelink A, Sharp K, Singh G, Chan KMA, (2017) 5 key challenges and solutions for governing complex adaptive (food) systems. Sustainability 9(1594): 1-30
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Holzschuh A, Steffan-Dewenter I, Tscharntke, T. (2010) How do landscape composition and configuration, organic farming and fallow strips affect the diversity of bees, wasps, and their parasitoids? Journal of Animal Ecology 79
  25. 25.0 25.1 Coburn T. (2015) Farm subsidies: Milking taxpayers. The Economist. Retrieved November 8, 2017 from:
  26. 26.0 26.1 Hansen RL. (2011). “Citizens United” and the illusion of coherence. Michigan Law Review 109(4): 581-623
  27. 27.0 27.1 Philpott T. (2016) Canada just took a big step toward banning a nasty pesticide. Mother Jones. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from:
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Corey J, Graves L. (2016) Monsanto poised to take over the global food system. Amass 21(2)
  29. Neate R. (2016) Bayer’s US$ 66bn takeover bid of Monsanto called a marriage made in hell. The Guardian. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from:
  30. Foran C. (2014) The costly lobbying war over America’s dying honeybees. The Guardian. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from:
  31. 31.0 31.1 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (2017). Convention. Retrieved November 30, 2017 from:
  32. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (2015). Recommendation adopted by the working group. Ad hoc open-ended inter-sessional working group on article 8(j)and related provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity
  33. Kriebel D, Tickner J, Epstein P, Lemons J, Levins R, Loechler EL, Quinn M, Rudel R, Schettler T, Stoto M. (2001). The precautionary principle in environmental science. Environmental Health Perspectives 109(9): 871-876
  34. Bureau B & Aranson R. (2016) Health Canada proposed banning neonic. Producer. Retrieved November 20, 2017 from:
  35. Pollen M. (2001) Behind the organic-industrial complex. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved November 30, 2017 from:
  36. Ollerton J. (2017) Pollinator diversity: distribution, ecological function, and conservation. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
  37. 37.0 37.1 Biggs R, Schluter M, Schoon ML. (2015) Principles for building resilience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  38. Mulvany P. (2017) Agricultural biodiversity is sustained in the framework of food sovereignty. Biodiversity 18(2)
  39. 39.0 39.1 Mulvany P. (2017) Agricultural biodiversity is sustained in the framework of food sovereignty. Biodiversity 18(2)
  40. 40.0 40.1 Nigh R, Diemont SAW. (2013). The Maya milpa: fire and the legacy of living soil. The Ecological Society of America 11:45-54
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 Morandin LA, Kremen, C. (2013) Hedgerow restoration promotes pollinator populations and exports native bees to adjacent fields. Ecological Applications 23(4)
  42. Hines HM, Hendrix SD. (2005) Bumble Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) diversity and abundance in tallgrass prairie patches: effects of local and landscape floral resources. Environmental Entomology 34(6)

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Alysia Bixler. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.